Author of the acclaimed The Face of Battle, and, most recently, Intelligence in War, John Keegan now brings his extraordinary expertise to bear on perhaps the most controversial war of our time. The Iraq War is an urgently needed, up-to-date and informed study of the ongoing conflict. In exclusive interviews with Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and General Tommy Franks, Keegan has gathered information about the war that adds immeasurably to our grasp of its causes, complications, costs and consequences. He probes the reasons for the invasion and delineates the strategy of the American and British forces in capturing Baghdad; he examines the quick victory over the Republican Guard and the more tenacious and deadly opposition that has taken its place. He then analyzes the intelligence information with which the Bush and Blair administrations convinced their respective governments of the need to go to war, and which has since been strongly challenged in both countries. And he makes clear that despite the uncertainty about weapons of mass destruction, regime change, and the use and misuse of intelligence, the war in Iraq is an undeniably formidable display of American power.
Ubiquitous military historian Keegan (Intelligence in War) offers a reportage-based account of a "mysterious war." Keegan addresses the war's anomalies-200,000 soldiers took a country of almost 30 million in three weeks; the war's justification (WMD) never materialized; the Iraqi army "melted away" and the populace tried only to stay out of the way-by surveying the post-World War I origins of Iraq, Saddam's rise to power, the nature of his rule and his external ambitions. The result is a work with broader scope than Murray and Scales's The Iraq War (2003), and one that makes a case for the war as justified in moral, legal and practical contexts. Saddam emerges, predictably enough, as a particularly nasty regional despot and the architect of his own destruction through his intransigent failure to satisfy the demands of an increasingly frustrated international community. Keegan divides his account of the campaign itself into "American" and "British" chapters, and he praises the skill of the planners and commanders of both armed forces. His accounts of British operations in the Shiite south and the U.S. drive on Baghdad affirm the high morale and fighting power of the troops involved. Keegan in particular demonstrates the U.S. mastery of mechanized maneuver war, but underplays the problems of control and pacification that have been making headlines since the turn of the year. Agent, Gillon Aitken Associates, U.K. (May 28) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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May 24, 2005
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Excerpt from The Iraq War by John Keegan
A Mysterious War
Some wars begin badly. Some end badly. The Iraq War of 2003 was exceptional in both beginning well for the Anglo-American force that waged it and ending victoriously. The credit properly belonged in both cases to the American part of the coalition. It was the Americans who provided the majority of strength on the ground and overwhelmingly the majority in the air and at sea. The British contribution was important and warmly welcomed by the Americans but it was that of an esteemed junior partner.
The war was not only successful but peremptorily short, lasting only twenty-one days, from 20 March to 9 April. Campaigns so brief are rare, a lightning campaign so complete in its results almost unprecedented. For comparisons one has to reach back to the 'cabinet wars' of the nineteenth century, Prussia's victory over Austria in six weeks in 1866 or over the French field army in less than a month in 1870. Walkovers, as by the Germans in the Balkans in 1941, do not count. The Iraqis had fielded a sizeable army and had fought, after a fashion. Their resistance had simply been without discernible effect. The Americans came, saw, conquered. How?
While reporting the war in The Daily Telegraph I frequently found myself writing that its events were 'mysterious'. It was a strange word for a military analyst to use in what should have been objective comment. Even in retrospect, however, I see no reason to look for another. The war was mysterious in almost every aspect. Mystery shrouded the casus belli, the justification for going to war. The war was launched because Saddam Hussein, President of Iraq, refused to co-operate with United Nations inspectors in their search for his forbidden weapons of mass destruction. Yet even after his defeat laid the whole territory of Iraq open to search, such weapons eluded discovery. Mystery surrounded the progress of operations. Iraq fielded an army of nearly 400,000 soldiers, equipped with thousands of tanks, armoured vehicles and artillery pieces. Against the advance of an invading force only half its size, the Iraqi army faded away. It did not fight at the frontier, it did not fight at the obvious geographical obstacles, it scarcely fought in the cities, it did not mount a last-ditch defence of the capital, where much of the world media predicted that Saddam would stage his Stalingrad.